Jim Sonefeld, band member of the Grammy-winning 90s group Hootie and the Blowfish, is marching to the beat of a different drummer these days. Cliché, yes, but the words ring true for the musician, speaker, alcoholic and former drug user who will bring a positive message of hope on Monday night at the free Celebration Recovery event, held at Eastern Heights Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m.
Spiraling out of control with drug use and alcohol well into his career as the drummer for the popular band, Sonefeld turned to a friend for help, a friend he'd seen a difference in recently.
"I was sick and tired of being sick and tired," said Sonefeld. "I had the money to provide me the luxury of using seven days a week. But I never knew how much it would take every night. It was exhausting; it was a debilitating illness."
Sonefeld admitted it would be nice to blame his problems on his success or the stress of the music world but said he began experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the age of 14. First, it came in cycles, then the cycles turned to a daily cycle and then a 'need' to use daily. He said he was in denial for quite some time.
"I reached a point of willingness to admit defeat and ask someone for help."
His friend took him to a 12-step program. He didn't know what to expect, but recognized that there were parts of his life that had incurred damages beyond repair but that God would heal him if he turned his life over to his care.
Sobriety wasn't easy for Sonefeld, which is often the case.
"You can quit or go cold turkey, but you have to get to the root or cause of the addiction for long-term sobriety," he said. "Putting down the bottle can come quickly, but long-term sobriety can take a long time."
Sonefeld's epiphany occurred toward the end of 2004, during the middle of making another record.
"It was difficult because I had the monkey off my back, but I was still in the circus."
Sonefeld pointed out that the 12-step program offers a design to live a happy sober life in the midst of the world, because, after all, "there's still liquor stores on the corner; you might have family members still using; people on the road during concerts are drinking. You can't change that. But you can live happily and joyfully in that world, sober."
The famous drummer didn't want to give up his musical career. The band had been together since college. He and the other members met at the University of South Carolina, where he achieved his bachelor's degree in media arts and played various weekend gigs.
"In 1989, we were getting ready to graduate, and we had to decide whether to go on or get jobs," he said.
They took the leap into full-time band members and played for five years in clubs before the bigbreak came: a record deal with Atlantic Records. That brought their music to the rest of the country, including the album that became the 16th best-selling album of all time in the U.S.
When asked about the band's quirky name, Sonefeld explained that two college buddies, who were never actually part of the band, were given those nicknames by a bandmember who liked handing out monikers to everyone. One night at a bar, the two walked in and someone said, "There's Hootie and the Blowfish." And then someone said, "Hey, let's name our band that."
Sonefeld laughed and added, "I wasn't there to put in my vote for that."
In 2008, after three years of touring and being sober, Sonefeld and fellow bandmembers decided to take a break from touring and did one last summer tour. Not disbanded, however, because the group has a foundation by that same name that supports various South Carolina charities. The group hosts three major events every year to continue funding their charity efforts.
Shortly after the band quit performing regularly, Sonefeld married and his family went from two children to a blended family of two adults and five children ranging in age from 11 to 17.
His wife, Laura, was instrumental in encouraging Sonefeld to write Christian music.
"I was at a crossroads of creativity; my life had changed dramatically, spiritually. I felt called to be bolder with my faith."
Now Sonefeld goes into churches and other places, speaking at Celebrate Recovery events to people who are seeking healing and recovery.
"Singing and talking about the solution I found," Sonefeld said.
Sonefeld points out that the free event is open to all, believers and non-believers who need to hear a positive message of hope.